By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Jan 24 (IANS) Around 500 children who were once seen begging, rag picking and fighting on the streets in Rajasthan’s Churu district have now transformed into decent students and are attending regular classes, singing patriotic songs and dreaming high to serve the nation as defence personnel, police officers and doctors. This is courtesy the efforts of Dharamveer Jakhar, a police constable in Rajasthan who has been teaching them regularly for an hour every day since January 2016 in Aapni Pathshala, a school started by him.
Surprisingly, even amid the Covid pandemic, Jakhar has been visiting the slum areas to ensure the kids receive their regular lessons and don’t return to their old profession of begging.
In 2011, Jakhar pursued his Bachelor of Education and wanted to become a school teacher however, in between he cracked Rajasthan police service exam and was appointed as a constable.
During one of his assignments, he was asked to counsel kids from the streets who were begging.
His interaction with these kids revealed how they were limited in their goals, were abusive in their approach and did not want to do anything else than begging.
“I wondered how will these kids grow and what shall they become in future and what will be their role in nation building? This question troubled me and I realised that these kids need mentoring. Many of them did not even have parents and this goaded me to start an informal school for them,” he adds.
“It was at this time when I started calling these kids to the school run under a tree where they were given prizes too in the form of chocolates, biscuits or toys which lured them to attend regular classes,” he says sharing that initially there were just 5 kids.
Soon this number started multiplying. In around 1.5 years, there were 180 kids.
At this time, he named his small school as ï¿½Aapni Pathshala’ which started running under the aegis of ï¿½Muskan Sansthan, Churu. It came out as a joint venture of participation by civil society and police in the sphere of social service.
The slum children attending the school were provided mid-day meals, bags, books, clothes, sports items and stationery, etc for free.
The school was then shifted to a Pharma office nearby where they had decent space to run the classes. Out of these 180 students, 80 were around 10 year old and hence were eligible to get admission in a decent school. We pushed and enrolled these kids in class V and VI in Zakir Hussain school so that they get regular education, he says.
Overall, till date, we have connected around 500 students with education. No matter what the season is, education for these students has never stopped. Even my knee ligament damage did not bring a break in my schedule, he adds.
“We don’t want these students to go back to begging and hence, have been visiting slum areas to teach them even in pandemic times,” he adds.
“The NGO Muskaan has been helping us in many forms. When I am busy rendering my duty during day time, they take turns to teach the kids. In fact, now with the help of society, we have been providing the best food for these kids too,” he informs.
The kids taking their regular classes here are from neighbouring states too which include UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
“Many of their parents have come here to work as labourers or beg, now their kids are being taught here who want to become Armymen, join police and so on,” he adds.
Goverdhan, an 8th class student, is learning to shoot in a shooting range. “We were ragpickers once but now are attending shooting class and want to join the military,” he says.
Puru Kumar, running shooting classes in a shooting range, is providing them free learning.
Another student Mitu Kumar, a ragpicker who worked in a tea stall, is now studying in class IX, and also wants to join the Army.
“We were given dresses, shoes, gifts on coming to school neat and clean and hence we thought of becoming regular students. Now, we have solar panels installed at our huts too so that we can study at night,” says Ravi, a class VIII student.
Bhoomi, a class V student from UP, says she is thankful to the team for helping her enrol in school.
Jakhar, despite doing wonderful work, has not been promoted in the last four years.
“I want to be known for my work. Designations hardly matter. I shall soon spread the project to other parts of the nation to harness the capabilities of other kids who are spending their lives begging on the streets,” he says.
By Archana Sharma